Forex Weekly Outlook February 17-21 – Focus on Consumer Releases, Central Bank Minutes

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Federal Reserve Chair Powell testified before Congress last week and signaled that the Fed would not be raising rates in the near future. Still, with no signs that the coronavirus will be contained anytime soon, Fed members may have to reconsider. The calendar features consumer inflation and spending data in the U.K. and Canada, as well as other top events. Here the highlights for the upcoming week.

U.S. consumer inflation remains soft, as CPI dipped to 0.1 percent. Retail sales rose for a fourth straight month, thanks to cheaper gas prices. In both Germany and the UK, Preliminary GDP was flat in the fourth quarter.

  1. UK Employment Reports: Tuesday, 9:30. Wage growth has been steadily decreasing, from a high of 4.0% back in July. The December release is expected at just 3.1%. Unemployment rolls fell sharply to 14.9 thousand in January, much lower than the estimate of 33.4 thousand. This marked the lowest level in 12 months. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 3.8% in December, around the historic lows. Without an increase in salaries, inflation is unlikely to rise.
  2. German ZEW Economic Sentiment: Tuesday, 10:00. The ZEW survey climbed to 26.7 in January, up from 10.7 in the previous release. Another strong score is expected in February, with an estimate of 20.0 points. Changes in business confidence are eyed by the ECB.
  3. RBA Monetary Policy Minutes: Wednesday, 0:30. The RBA minutes will provide details of the policy meeting from earlier this month. At the meeting, policymakers maintained rates at 0.75%, but the bank is under pressure to lower rates, as the Australian economy is feeling the chills from coronavirus.
  4. UK Inflation: Wednesday, 9:30. The weak British economy has been unable to generate much in the way of inflation. CPI slipped to 1.3% in December, shy of the estimate of 1.5%. This was the lowest monthly level since November 2016. Analysts expect CPI to climb to 1.7% in January. Core CPI, which excludes the most volatile items which make up CPI, slipped to 1.4% in December, shy of the estimate of 1.7%. The forecast for January stands at 1.5%.
  5. Canadian CPI: Wednesday, 13:30. Inflation remains muted, as the headline reading has managed only one gain in the past five releases. The forecast for January stands at 0.3%, compared to 0.0% in December.
  6. Australian Job Reports: Thursday, 0:30. The labor market remains solid, with strong job creation numbers in the past two months. January is expected to show a gain of 10.0 thousand, which is respectable, but much smaller than the December gain of 28.9 thousand. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.1% in December, its lowest level since March. The estimate for January stands at 5.2%.
  7. UK Retail Sales: Thursday, 11:00. Retail sales continues to struggle, with no gains since August. In December, the indicator declined by 0.6%, compared to the forecast of +0.5%. A strong rebound is expected in January, with an estimate of 0.7%.
  8. ECB Monetary Policy Meeting Accounts: Thursday, 12:30. At the January policy meeting, ECB President Christine Lagarde said that she would prefer higher interest rates, but that stronger growth and inflation were needed first. Investors will be combing through the minutes, looking for hints regarding future monetary policy.
  9. FOMC Meeting Minutes: Thursday, 19:00. The minutes will provide details of the most recent policy meeting. The Fed has signaled that it has no plans to lower interest rates in the near future, and Fed Chair Powell said last week that the Fed could resort to QE in case of a financial crisis. 
  10. Eurozone Flash PMIs: Friday, 8:15 in France, 8:30 in Germany, and 9:00 for the whole eurozone. Markit’s forward-looking guidance figures for January showed growth in the services sector, but pointed to continuing contraction for German and eurozone manufacturing PMIs. Both of these manufacturing PMIs are expected to weaken in February, with estimates of 47.4 and 44.8, respectively.
  11. Canadian Retail Sales: Friday, 13:30. Retail sales jumped 0.9% in November, its strongest gain since March. However, this appears to have been a temporary spike, as analysts expect a small gain for 0.1% for December. The core reading is expected to improve to 0.4%, compared to 0.2% in the previous release.
  12. U.S. Manufacturing PMI: Friday, 14:45. The PMI has been slightly above the 50-level, which separates contraction and expansion. Little change is expected in the February release, with an estimate of 51.5 points.

*All times are GMT

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Kenny Fisher - Senior Writer A native of Toronto, Canada, Kenneth worked for seven years in the marketing and trading departments at Bendix, a foreign exchange company in Toronto. Kenneth is also a lawyer, and has extensive experience as an editor and writer.

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